Getting back up after a fall


 

Don’t keep saying ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ to the kids because all it does is squelch their curiosity, determination and thirst for exploration. The truth is, even when you fall, you can learn from the experience. Growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone.

AS YOU likely would have heard by now, while training in the British Virgin Islands recently, I was bicycling down a hill, hit a bump in the road and was flung off my bike into the air. In the microseconds that I spent anticipating the feeling of concrete against my face, my life actually flashed before my eyes.

I genuinely thought: I’m going to die.

My bike disappeared off the cliff, and I landed hard. I was wearing a helmet, but I suffered a fractured cheek, torn ligaments and a few cuts and bruises.

While the timing couldn’t have been worse, my recovery is going well.

By the time you read this (injuries permitting), I will have been long into my journey on the Virgin Strive Challenge, the most physically demanding test I’ve ever tackled. I’m joining my children, Holly and Sam, and a group of inspiring people on this challenge.

We’re traveling entirely under our own power on a month-long trip through Italy, from the base of the Matterhorn in the Alps to the summit of Sicily’s Mount Etna.

We will be facing all sorts of physical obstacles along the way: a vast landscape across which we will hike and cycle, deep waters that we’ll have to swim across to reach Sicily, an active volcano we’ll run on. It will take great perseverance, solidarity and mental clarity to get through this adventure.

But it’s likely that the toughest obstacles will be those inside our own heads.

In business and in life, most people consider others to be their toughest opponents, whether it’s winning a tennis match or winning more market share. However, the real adversary is actually far closer to home. In my 66 years, I’ve learned that there is no tougher foe than yourself.

Think about it: As an entrepreneur, you’re the one who has to put in the hard yards.

You’re the one who has to deal with all those late nights and early mornings. You’re the one who has to figure out how to push past barriers you didn’t realise existed.

But if you’re determined enough and have the right mindset, you can reach heights you thought were impossible to reach.

That’s what the Virgin Strive Challenge is all about: pushing yourself to do something you didn’t think was possible, and in the process setting a great example for others, particularly young people.

Too often, children are told: “You can’t do this,” or “Don’t even try.” Adults say these things to keep their kids safe, to protect them from the pain of failure.

But in my opinion, this is a big mistake. The more children are told they can’t do something, the more they lose their curiosity, determination and thirst for exploration — qualities that are essential for entrepreneurs.

That’s why Virgin has partnered with Big Change this year, a youth charity in the UK that looks for different ways to encourage young people to thrive and develop a growth mindset.

It is all about believing that you can grow through both failure and success. When you fail, it’s tempting to slip into a negative mindset, to start thinking that you’re hopeless. But that just makes it easier to give up.

If you remain positive about your abilities, chalk up losses as valuable experiences and get back on your feet, it will be easier to forgive yourself and move on.

After all, while you may be your own toughest adversary, you can also be your biggest supporter. It’s important that we all know this, children in particular.

My wife, Joan, and I have always encouraged our children to chase their dreams, push themselves hard and live their lives without regret. I’m so proud of the adults they’ve become and the work they’re doing now through Big Change. It’s an incredible privilege for me to be able to join them in their latest undertaking.

I just hope my body holds up after the accident!Together, we’re going to have the adventure of our lives as we try and raise over £1.5mil to support positive change for young people. It doesn’t get much better than that!

And we hope to send a clear message: Growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone, and the truly extraordinary happens when you do it with the support of others.

Make sure you head over to the Virgin Strive Challenge website, strivechallenge.com, for more information, and check back for updates on our journey. — Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

By Richard Branson

Questions from readers will be answered in future columns. Please send them to Richard.Branson@nytimes.com. Please include your name, country, email address and the name of the website or publication where you read the column.

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